Andy Murray, Monty Python and Ken Loach. This cycle route has it all! The cycle path between Dunblane and Doune makes it easy to see both the stunning interior of Dunblane Cathedral and have a tour of the distillery that featured in Angel's Share, a film about whisky.
The route takes you alongside the river, Allan Water. Its banks are crowded with trees, making this a green and peaceful spot. There is a distinctive narrow humpback bridge to cross and this gives a great view of the fast flowing water.
The route proceeds through housing estates with large properties, reflecting the wealth of the area. Then a muddy lane with potholes-a-plenty where I disturbed some pheasants rustling noisily in the bushes- they made a panicked and clumsy escape.
Further ahead the path was blocked by pupils from Dunblane High School. "Bike!" One of the girls shouted. "Make way people!"
Then a teacher shouted "Move to the right!". But they all moved to the left. The teacher looked at me and shrugged, "I say right and they go left!"
There was still a group of boys that I had to pass and they were completely unaware, so it was time for the girl to shout again, "Move! Murray!" This time they heard and moved to allow me to pass. I thanked them and they all said, "no problem."
After this I reached the disused railway path, a flat and straight route, flanked by trees and bushes.
This line had linked Dunblane to Callender until closure in 1965. There are several bridges along the route, which are about the only physical remnants of the railway.
The path provides good views when it gets closer to Doune. I found a bench to sit in the sun and eat my tuna roll from a Dunblane bakery, songbirds creating a lunchtime concert.
Doune Castle featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There is an entry fee, but you can look at the outside for free.
Doune has a narrow main street with small cottages. There is a particularly striking red house, adorned with window boxes.
My favourite building in Doune is a white house on George Street with quirky architectural features. There are archways, narrow windows, triangular bay windows and a turret like a witches hat. The house is called Pudden Wynd.
This house is passed on the way to Deanston Distillery, which is only 1.3 miles from Doune. This distillery building is more industrial and functional than the poster boy distilleries that adorn coffee table books, postcard racks and tourist brochures. There are no pagodas or gleaming white-painted warehouses, but it has a pleasant location next to the River Teith where heron's can be seen fishing.
If you are thinking that the taller building is perhaps reminiscent of an old mill you are correct. Deanston was originally a cotton mill. It operated from 1785 until its closure in 1965. A new use was found for the site as a whisky distillery.
The great thing about the Deanston guided tour is that you can take photographs which many other distilleries prohibit.
I have been on several distillery tours, so I tend to look for things that are different, things that might be unique to a particular distillery. At Deanston they include something that I had not seen before on a distillery tour- the room where they fill the whisky barrels. I was quite surprised to see that the device they use was like a petrol pump and putting whisky into a barrel was just like filling up a car.
There were also containers full of the wooden stoppers that are used to plug tha barrels shut. I learned that the stoppers are made of poplar.
I also discovered that Deanston generates its own electricity from water power, the only distillery to do so. The surplus electricity is sold back to the National Grid.
A visit to a distillery is an assault on your senses. There is noisy machinery, heat and humidity and unusual smells. In particular, the washbacks, the large containers that contain fermenting liquid, is very fruity, like ripe bananas.
In the warehouse there is a whisky barrel signed by the cast and crew of the film Angel's Share. This is a Scottish film directed by Ken Loach with a mixture of comedy and drama. Whisky features heavily in the film and some scenes were made at Deanston.
All distillery tours end with a tasting. This is quite a basic affair compared to some other distilleries I have visited. At Deanston you drink your dram standing up in the shop, whereas some other distilleries have dedicated tasting rooms with leather armchairs.
Deanston is not a smoky whisky. It is smooth, sweet and fruity. I purchased a miniature which was wrapped in tissue with a classy sticker featuring a picture of the distillery buildings. There is a water wheel in the picture, a nice way to remember the cotton mill that was originally here.
The first part of this blog is about Dunblane and can be read here.
Distances and Directions
This is a ten mile return trip from Dunblane. Being a short cycle means that there is plenty of time to visit Dunblane and its Cathedral and take a tour of Deanston Distillery. Dunblane takes around an hour to reach by train from Glasgow or Edinburgh.
Most of the cycle route is on a dedicated path, but once you reach Doune there will be some road cycling. To reach Deaston on leaving Doune you have to turn left onto the A84, which can be a busy road, but you are only it for a few minutes.
The traffic-free cycle route from Dunblane to Doune is not yet on Google Maps, so I have not shown this on the map, but have added the route from Doune to Deanstone Distillery.
Visit a stunning Cathedral and tour a whisky distillery in a day. There is a traffic-free path on a disused railway line between Dunblane and Doune that means you can easily combine a visit to the town's cathedral with a dram at the distillery that featured in Angels' Share, the 2012 Ken Loach film.
Dunblane is six miles north of Stirling. It is well connected by regular trains (just over an hour from Edinburgh, under an hour from Glasgow). The stone station with crow-stepped gables is perfectly suited to the prettiness and small size of the town:
Dunblane is one of my favourite towns in Scotland. It has an attractive position next to the Allan Water with the High Street climbing parallel to the Water. The water is fast flowing and when you cross the bridge between the station and the High Street you get an excellent view.
The glass was steamed up from the freshly baked batches and the pastry looked deliciously flaky. I watched locals peering at them and trying to decide which to have for lunch.
I glanced up at a turreted bay window on the High Street and thought this must be a lovely flat to live in. I could imaging the sun streaming in on a bright day.
At the top of the High Street the cathedral can be found in a precinct that is surrounded by pretty stone cottages.
Dunblane Cathedral (free entry, check Historic Scotland for opening hours) dates from the 12th century. The exterior is quite plain and the real joy is to be found inside.
The cathedral's roof is supported by two tiers of Gothic arches. Each arch has fine stone carving and is supported by a cluster of columns. You cannot help but look up to the ceiling and be impressed by the height of the structure that is kept in place by all these arches.
There is a spiral staircase to the West Window where you can look down on this magnificence. It is quite unusual to have this level of access to such a building as I usually find these little staircases inside churches and cathedrals off limits, so it was quite exciting to be able to go up there. You also get a great close up of the stained glass window.
I was really impressed with the wood carving on the choir stalls. The armrests are in the shape of different creatures- dogs, birds and even a camel. A lot of creativity, time and skill was taken over these- just look at the little dog with his nostrils and whiskers and the camel with the tassel hanging from the rein.